Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

Pirates of the Caribbean The Curse of the Black Pearl Poster.jpg

Blacksmith Will Turner teams up with eccentric pirate “Captain” Jack Sparrow to save his love, the governor’s daughter, from Jack’s former pirate allies, who are now undead.

Title: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

Release: 9 July 2003 (USA)

Language: English

Rating: 8.0/10

Runtime: 143min

Director: Gore Verbinski

Writers: Ted Elliott (screen story), Terry Rossio (screen story)

Stars: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom

Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, 2003

PlayIcon

Click here to watch!

DownloadIcon

Click here to download [720p]

One would think it a curse to have to transform a theme park attraction into a summer cinematic spectacle, but shiver me timbers, the only hex that burdens Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is its unwieldy title. This rollicking adventure from director Gore Verbinski is in love with the sights and sounds of pirate movie tropes—sailors swinging from ship ropes, sword fights, cannon balls flying through the air, glistening pirate bounty—and benefits immensely from both the filmmaker’s successful fusion of arch comedy, swashbuckling action, mild horror (a trick neither his execrable The Mexican, nor his leaden The Ring, could pull off), and his willingness to let Johnny Depp overact his heart out.

Depp, dressed up in a variety of colorful scarves that only partially contain his unruly tangle of dreadlocks and beaded hair, plays infamous pirate rascal Captain Jack Sparrow with limp wrists, a prancing gait, and a lilting British drawl that turns every “th” sound into an “f.” An androgynous king of the high seas, Sparrow is a gracefully asexual fop who, by embodying both feminine prettiness and masculine brashness, seems well aware of how to bend it like Beckham. Flashing his gold-toothed smile with a roguish delight that playfully hints at the naughtiness being concocted inside his scraggly head, Depp commands the screen so forcefully that it’s difficult to sustain interest in the film when he’s not front and center. During such lulls, one is forced to contend with the de facto love story between blacksmith Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and governor’s daughter Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), who is kidnapped by the undead crew of the legendary Black Pearl for possessing a piece of their cursed gold. Swann’s abduction and Turner’s quest to save her (which involves enlisting Sparrow’s help) is the plot’s catalyst, but since Pirates‘ greatest asset is Depp’s uninhibited antics, things tend to drag when the puckish Sparrow is confined to mere supporting player.

Bloom does an admirable job looking like a mini-Errol Flynn, and Knightley’s delicate features clash winningly with her character’s unladylike feistiness, but both are regularly upstaged by Depp, Geoffrey Rush as the decrepit Captain Barbossa, and a gaggle of peripheral characters (pirates and British alike) who contribute to the richness of Verbinski’s theme park-inspired tapestry. Narrative repetition muddles up the film’s second act, in which the adventurers find themselves visiting, and then revisiting, the same locales and skirmishes, but the occasionally monotonous escapades are bolstered by some playful Harryhausen-esque CGI villains—the Black Pearl’s pirates, when caught in a blade of moonlight, are revealed to be walking, talking skeletons—and the director’s eagerness to embrace, while slyly poking fun at, the hoary clichés his film must dutifully adhere to. Like the hidden stash of Caribbean rum that Sparrow and Swann enjoy after being stranded on a remote island by the dastardly Captain Barbossa, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is an intoxicating delight that abounds with woozy charm and delectable spiciness.

by Nick Schager (3 July 2003)

Advertisements

No Country For Old Men (2007)

NoCountryForOldMen Poster

Violence and mayhem ensue after a hunter stumbles upon a drug deal gone wrong and more than two million dollars in cash near the Rio Grande.

Title: No Country For Old Men
Release: 21 November 2007 (USA)
Language: English
Rating: 8.1/10
Runtime: 122min
Director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Writers: Joel Coen (screenplay), Ethan Coen (screenplay)
Stars: Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller, 2007

PlayIcon

Click here to watch!

DownloadIcon

Click here to download [720p]

Joel and Ethan Coen bring a touch of levity to their faithful adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s relentlessly bleak 2003 novel No Country for Old Men, though it’s the type of nervous humor born from relieving immense tension. The Coens’ first film since their leaden remake of The Ladykillers is an exceptional return to their Blood Simple roots, offering up a crime saga in which money is almost as irresistible as bad choices are inevitable. Their cynical streak finds its perfect complement in McCarthy’s gloomy tale of bibilical-scale chaos in 1980 Texas, and yet the Coens nonetheless locate the black comedy hidden within the acclaimed author’s terse, punctuation-sparse prose. Brusque exchanges and austere violence are the story’s stock-in-trade, with both elements so downbeat and harsh that they occasionally veer close to absurdity, thereby providing the filmmaking siblings with opportunities to wryly alleviate the oppressive despair and viciousness that hovers over the proceedings in the same way that the enormous western landscape and its weighty silence hang over its human inhabitants. As Tommy Lee Jones’s sheriff Ed Tom Bell says in reference to a particularly grim anecdote, “I laugh sometimes. ‘Bout the only thing you can do.”

Hunting out on the expansive plains, Vietnam vet Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) stumbles upon a gruesome scene: vehicles abandoned, heavily armed men dead (aside from a solitary survivor begging for agua), a pickup truck flatbed full of heroin, and—a little ways off, next to another stiff—a suitcase full of $2 million in cash. Moss discovers this mess by following a trail of blood spied on the dry, cracked earth, a perceptiveness that immediately marks him as a man attuned to the land’s rugged ferociousness, and thus makes his subsequent decision to take the cash and run a consciously foolish one. Moss realizes hard men will soon come for what’s theirs but absconds with the money anyway. Overstepping his boundaries at great risk, he’s something of a noir protagonist, albeit minus the romanticism, since the Coens—diligently following McCarthy’s lead—depict his momentous choice as the unwise but natural act of someone bred in a lunatic world. Unlike Ed Tom, whose old-school values are ill equipped to confront the mayhem of the modern era, and very much like his pursuer, the psychopathic Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem)—who, later, will also ascertain knowledge from blood on the ground—Moss does what he does because he’s the product of a fundamentally out-of-whack environment.

This generational gap is intrinsic to No Country, which laments with confused, terrified resignation the dawn of a new, more insane age—or, as one cop puts it, “the dismal tide.” Ed Tom is the story’s nominal good-guy detective, attempting to figure out the who, what, where, when, and why of Moss’s disappearance and the carnage wrought by Chigurh, but he’s really just a street sweeper, left to clean up the mess left in these two younger men’s wakes. The Coens’ concise, efficient script proficiently captures McCarthy’s melancholic view of old-young disparities, whether it be Ed Tom’s utilization of horses to scour the desolate desert for clues, or his bafflement at the callous disregard for the dead (and propriety) shown by a guy transporting corpses to the morgue. Meanwhile, their economical, decidedly un-flashy direction (mimicking McCarthy’s writing, and aided by longtime collaborator Roger Deakins’s beautifully severe cinematography) repeatedly conveys narrative undercurrents in entrancingly subtle ways, such that the plethora of animal carcasses, instances of man-versus-beast violence, and Ed Tom’s yarn about a slaughterhouse mishap coalesce into a chilling portrait of anarchic interspecies warfare.

At the center of this maelstrom is the cattle stun gun-wielding Chigurh, a madman with a Prince Valiant bowl-cut and an expression both bemused and remorseless. His methodical comportment, like that exhibited by Moss when hiding his stolen loot in a motel room air duct, makes him seem innately in harmony with his surroundings. And yet the crazed glint in his eyes simultaneously casts him as an alien, an intruder recently arrived from Hades to tender unholy blessings (as during a lethal carjacking) and confession (to a gas station owner). Bardem plays Chigurh like the calmest lunatic known to heaven or hell, and he’s never more frightening than when uttering, in his bizarro bass voice, the faux term-of-endearment “friend-o” to prospective prey. Chigurh’s stillness is emblematic of the Coens’ use of surface tranquility to conceal latent brutality, as well as an external reflection of his fatalism. The villain’s habit of granting victims a chance at amnesty via a coin flip turns out to be the sole exception to his governing belief that he’s incapable of affecting ongoing events, all of which he implies are byproducts of everything that’s come before. It’s a pessimism shared by the film, which makes clear (spoiler alert!) the unavoidability and inconsequentiality of Llewelyn and wife Carla Jean’s (Kelly Macdonald) deaths—just two more drops of blood for the thirsty Texas earth—by keeping their murders off-screen.

“You’re not cut out for this,” a drug kingpin’s hired hand (Woody Harrelson) tells Llewelyn, and though that’s technically true, the increasingly bullet-riddled Llewelyn remains better suited for his situation than his elders, such as a senior citizen who picks him up on the side of the road and—revealing an amusing lack of perspective—tells him, “Hitchhiking is dangerous.” Thanks to its dour depiction of unreasonable, unstoppable evil, the film courts topical terrorism-related allegorical interpretations, even as it strives for Old Testament classicism. The Coens don’t shy away from McCarthy’s epically dark aspirations but their touch is a tad drier, affording their superb cast’s performances room to breathe, and allowing the action’s bursts of maliciousness to resound with greater impact. An even more forceful impression, however, is left by the mournful epilogue, in which Jones’s weary, admittedly “outmatched” sheriff resigns in defeat to a universe he no longer comprehends. His recurring attempts to understand the modern condition through the filter of old tall tales are ultimately, pitifully futile. Yet if this failure represents an admission that the past, despite having begat the here and now, holds no keys to understanding the present, it also demands the creation of contemporary fictions to help make sense of the new world madness. With the masterful No Country, the Coens and McCarthy give us one.

by Nick Schager (9 October 2007)

Superbad [Unrated] (2007)

Superbad Poster

Two co-dependent high school seniors are forced to deal with separation anxiety after their plan to stage a booze-soaked party goes awry.

Title: Superbad
Release: 17 August 2007 (USA)
Language: English
Rating: 7.6/10
Runtime: 114min
Director: Greg Mottola
Writers: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg
Stars: Michael Cera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Genre: Comedy, 2007

PlayIcon

Click here to watch!

Alternative 1 (Openload)

Alternative 2 (Streamin)

Alternative 3 (TheVideo)

DownloadIcon

Click here to download [720p]

If Superbad screenwriters Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have followed Fiction Writing 101’s golden rule to “Write What You Know”—a likely scenario, given that their protagonists’ names are Seth and Evan—then what they clearly know most about is cocks. It’s safe to say that no film in the history of cinema has displayed as much interest in male genitalia as this latest project from The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up mastermind Judd Apatow (here serving as producer). To say it’s a mind-boggling infatuation would almost be putting it lightly, so thoroughly does it have boners on the brain. The story of two high-school seniors’ attempts to procure booze for a graduation party and, as a reward for their efforts, get laid, Superbad is nothing shy of a slightly overlong, R&B-grooving portrait of two phalluses primed to explode. The unadulterated fascination with, and obsession over, penises displayed throughout is extreme to the point that one would be hard pressed to fully and properly convey it. In fact, were I to even try to match the film’s level of cock-loving with this review, these initial references to male reproductive organs would be just the tip of the iceberg.

Rogen and Goldberg wrote their script while teenagers and it shows, as Superbad—significantly more than the Rogen-headlined Knocked Up—exhibits a precise understanding of young male anxieties, desires, and camaraderie, but absolutely no clue about the fairer sex. In essence a love story between Jonah Hill’s loud, über-horny Seth and Michael Cera’s quiet, awkward Evan, director Greg Mottola’s film seeks to mirror the now-patented Apatow formula: severe raunch complemented by aw-shucks sweetness. The former takes dominant precedence over the latter, though its casual, un-preachy depiction of all-consuming adolescent yearning for social/romantic/sexual acceptance nonetheless brings a measure of genuine sensitivity to the unending ejaculation of profanity. Seth’s deep, reciprocated feelings for best friend Evan are complicated by resentment over the fact that they won’t be going off to college together (thanks to Seth not getting into Dartmouth), a bitterness that’s repeatedly stroked for laughs but simultaneously taken seriously—or, at least, as seriously as such a lewd comedy can take any subject. The brash, outgoing Hill and weird, discomfited Cera are a perfectly mismatched, consistently hilarious odd couple, yet it’s their convincing affection for each other and shared desire for inclusion that helps prop up the countless nasty gags.

The desire to fit in isn’t only confined to under-21 outcasts, as a secondary plot follows Seth and Evan’s dorky third wheel Fogell (outstanding newcomer Christopher Mintz-Plasse, reinvigorating the archetypal nerd) as his effort to buy liquor leads to misadventures with a pair of stunted-adolescent cops (Rogen and SNL‘s Bill Hader). Fogell may want to appear older via his fake Hawaii ID—which, in the so-brilliant-it-never-quite-gets-old centerpiece joke, lists the kid’s name as simply “McLovin”—but the film’s ethos is truly encapsulated by the officers, who are preoccupied with Star Wars, drinking beer, and demonstrating through reckless behavior that cops can be cool too. As a result, the sappy finale, just like prior Apatow productions, feels somewhat phony. Having proven its conception of women as either whores who period-bleed on men’s legs or as nice girlfriend-types—and always as mysterious aliens—Superbad then casts Seth and Evan’s duel domestication as a triumph (albeit one tinged with separation-sadness), a turn of events that disingenuously betrays its guy’s-hanging-with-guys energy. Which is to say: growing up and acquiring a worldview outside one’s own pants may be vital for the immature duo, but I don’t want to hear it from a movie that concludes with a notebook drawing of a cock dressed like Mr. T.

by Nick Schager (13 August 2007)